Beneath the Buddha

Kneeling in an empty room, letting the shining glow of a golden Buddha warm me, I feel as close to content as I can remember.

It makes sense, sitting in that room, as to why bhuddism remains so alluring. There’s something in the statues eyes, in the way they aren’t looking down at me but rather down at himself, as though thinking. It tells me this is for the now, for the me sitting here today, not some historical remanent of when religion was a booming, all powerful business. Unlike so many churches and monasteries I’ve been in, the architecture still feels poignant, and a welcome break from the busy, furious stampede of every day life.

The colours in this room are deep, and the blacks are truly rich. The gold decor appear almost as a campfire, illuminating this place, even though it shouln’t need illumination. It’s beautiful, an illusion of darkness at once created and shattered with a central, glimmering symbol.

This intelligence in design can be felt all over Kyoto’s temples. The way the gardens take your breath away no matter the season or weather. The way the exteriors are impressive yet rarely as grand as they might be. It’s an understanding of space and location that allows for illusions. The mountains, distant and vast, aren’t a part of the garden, I know that. Yet they seem so close, so perfectly entwined with the trees and rocks and the gentle, rippling water. The same holds true of that temple, where I sit, watching the statue glow. This place isn’t dark, and I’m not alone. Dozens of tourists stroll the path not two meters away. But it feels dark, and it feels like I’m alone.

After a few moments I I’ve soaked up enough borrowed faith for now, and I stand, ready to leave. Something catches my ear. A faint, dreamy chanting. I shake my head and sigh with resignation. I’m definetly going to miss my train. But you can’t say no to a white rabbit.

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